Matchday 19: Valletta 1 Gzira 0
Football seems to favour and reward those who take courageous risks, those who take up the challenge and take the bull by its horns.
Valletta’s need to emerge with the three points had new coach Giovanni Tedesco favouring a go-for-broke tactics which produced the desired pickings as the Citizens won this six-pointer.
The goal which resolved the issue was masterfully executed by a defender Steve Borg late in the match, at an important juncture when Tedesco had just introduced the fifth striker.
Both teams went for a brisk opening with Martin Davis and Amadou Samb giving the Valletta defenders something to think about but the Lilywhites were displaying a good defensive organisation which saw them deploy the offside game to perfection much to the dismay of the Jamaican striker past the first quarter of hour mark when he hit the upright but the winger was flagged offside in the build-up.
Matteo Piciollo and Bojan Kaljevic were doing likewise at the other end. Shawn Dimech worked perkily especially when he released himself from deep positions.
On 20 minutes, the Valletta midfielder crossed for Piciollo who headed over the bar.
Gżira’s reaction was spontaneous as Zach Scerri skied his shot wide.
Paul Zammit was forced to make his first substitution on 28 minutes when Samb limped out injured and was replaced Hamed Kone.
Both teams tried hard to break the deadlock before half-time but Henry Bonello stood out when he blocked Nikolai Muscat’s long-range effort.
Early in the second half, Tedesco brought on Miguel Alba for Dimech and switched to a 4-2-3-1 configuration. This tactical alteration provided more width for the Lilywhites as they started to find openings in the opponents’ half.
On 55 minutes, the former Birkirkara player sliced open the Gżira defence with a perfect ball from almost the halfway line but Mario Fontanella dragged his effort wide. Soon after, Justin Haber thwarted Fontanella with a point-blank save as the pressure on the Maroons’ fort was gradually mounting.
Tedesco threw caution to the wind when in the 77th minute he also introduced Kevin Tulimieri in lieu of Rowen Muscat, making the number of strikers on the pitch to five.
Haber effected a superb save on Alba’s free-kick. But from the ensuing corner, Steve Borg met Alba’s cross with a downward header that had the better of Haber, sending the Valletta fans into raptures.
At death, Valletta almost punished further Gżira’s flat-out approach when Emny Pena Beltre served Alba whose low drive crashed against the upright.
VALLETTA: H. Bonello, S. Borg, R. Camilleri, B. Kaljevic (D. Fuapala), M. Piciollo, S. Dimech (M. Alba), J. Borg, E. Pena Beltre, R. Muscat (K. Tulimieri), T. Caruana, M. Fontanella.
GZIRA U: J. Haber, F. Barbosa, G. Conti, N. Muscat (A.Cohen), Z. Scerri, R. Soares, J. Corbolan, D. Xuereb, A. Samb (H. Kone), M. Criaco, M. Davis (R. Darmanin)
Yellow Cards: M. Davis, Z. Scerri (Gzira), M. Piciollo, K. Tulimieri, H. Bonello (V)
Scorers: 79′ S. Borg (V)
Referee: M. Spiteri